It is inexcusable that, in the twenty-first century, we still effectively tax women for menstruating.
It really isn’t an easy subject to talk openly about but there’s also no ambiguity about this – tampons are not a luxury item. Tampons are a necessity and simply should not be subject to Value Added Tax.
In the SNP’s 2015 election manifesto was the commitment to abolish VAT on women’s sanitary products, otherwise known as the “tampon tax”. The SNP was the only major party in the General Election to commit to abolishing the tampon tax, and I was delighted to kick-start this debate in Westminster during the 2015 Finance Bill committee by introducing an amendment challenging the tax on periods.
Initially, I was told by Tory Ministers that my amendment to the budget wouldn’t be successful because EU VAT rules prohibited the UK from abolishing the 5% tax rate. Knowing that Ireland already had a zero VAT rate for sanitary products, this answer from the UK Government simply was not good enough.
I urged the UK Government to take this up with the European Commission and push for an end to this obscene tax. I was delighted when, after much pressure, the UK Government finally made the commitment to approach the EU Commission and have been lobbying hard with the support of cross-party MPs ever since to make the end of the tampon tax a reality.
Last night I was delighted to learn that the UK Government has received the green light from Brussels to press ahead and finally abolish the tampon tax. This is a victory for the tens of thousands of women who have lobbied their MPs, signed petitions and simply not taken no for an answer.
It’s also a major victory for the SNP who were bold enough to commit, in our election manifesto, to raising this in Westminster, and when faced seemingly countless obstacles still pressed the issue.
Standing up in the House of Commons in front of dozens of middle-aged, male Tory MPs and talking about periods wasn’t the easiest speech I’ve ever given but I’m just glad that it has finally led to action. David Cameron and George Osborne now need to take immediate action and put this issue to bed once and for all by abolishing the tampon tax.